Whether or Not You Believe in the Age of Accountability, You’re Wrong Either Way

I know, I said I wasn’t going to make every post about Atheism. What can I say, I’m a dirty stinking liar. I’ll hit the brakes on it one day… but not this day. NOT THIS DAY.

The Age of Accountability (hereafter known as AoA for brevity’s sake) is something I’ve brought up a few times, at least once here and more often elsewhere. It’s a concept that has always bothered me, but it took me a long time – and my eventual deconversion – to understand exactly why. For those who aren’t familiar with it, AoA is a concept many Christians* adhere to, which essentially says that children will not be held accountable for their sins until they reach an age where they fully understand what sin actually is (and that they are committing it).

In other words, a 5-year-old might lie to her mother, but since she isn’t old enough to fully understand why it’s a sin for her to do so, God doesn’t hold her accountable for it. Only when she reaches an age where she fully recognizes that she’s doing something wrong will she be held accountable.

Sounds reasonable, right? Most Christians would say so. But there are some problems when one goes beyond a surface-level examination, both for those who believe in the AoA, and for those who don’t. It is a concept that has forced Christians to paint themselves into a corner, and they have no way to get out without making a huge mess.

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Even Christians Know Their Beliefs Are Nonsense

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, wrote:

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Romans 1:19-20

 

Let’s just get the point. Paul had it completely backwards. Anyone can look at the world around them and see immediately that God has not been perceived in any way whatsoever. Everyone looks at the natural world and either sees it for what it is, or for what they want it to be. It can mean very different things to the Christian than it does to the Hindu than it does to the Atheist (though I would argue that the atheist is closest, despite knowing there is still much to learn). Nothing about it is plain or consistent at all… if it were, why all the confusion?

But the crux of the matter is the fact that Christians enjoy using this verse as an argument that even atheists don’t really deny the existence of God. We may claim that we do, but deep down, we all know the truth is that God (not just any God, but the Christian God) exists. This is my counter-argument. I would say that not only is this view entirely wrong, but that the exact opposite is in fact true. It isn’t atheists who actually believe in Christianity. It’s Christians who don’t believe in it.

Here are 10 reasons why this is the case. (more…)

The Wall Came Crumbling Down

Ever since “going public” with my atheism, I must admit that I’ve had to work extremely hard to avoid what I see as common mistakes that new deconverts often seem to make. I can’t help but be excited about this new perspective that I’ve discovered, and my first instinct is to want to “spread the good news,” so to speak. And truly, it is good news. We aren’t being eternally judged by our finite actions in this relatively tiny slice of time we’ve been given. No one is going to burn in hell for all eternity. How very precious does this life become when it is our only focus? This is all very good news indeed!

But not everyone will see it that way. In fact, most of the people closest to me will see it in the complete opposite light. And just as I don’t enjoy being preached at, it’s important for me to understand that proselytism is a two way street.

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Becoming an Atheist

The slow erosion of my belief in God was something I never intended, and frankly, was something I never saw coming.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when this erosion began. I’ve always had questions about my faith, as I believe most people have, from a young age. Even the most devout believer will admit there is a lot about Christianity that just doesn’t make a lick of sense. How is it possible to be both three gods and one god at the same time? Where did God come from? How could he have always existed? If the world was only created less than 10,000 years ago, where do dinosaurs fit in? How do we even know that the Bible is true?

These questions (and many, many more) remain generally unanswered, to the point that even adults who are rock solid in their understanding of Christianity must simply accept them as truth on faith, confident that the answers are impossible for mere humans to comprehend. How do we know that the Bible is the true, inerrant word of God? Obviously because we have faith that it is so. Why then must we hold to this unwavering faith? Because the Bible tells us to.

And round and round it goes. (more…)

Writing the Chorus

Chorus of Dust is a book I never really meant to write.

That might sound like a strange thing to say, as the first part of writing anything comes from first sitting down and deciding what story you want to tell. Even if that story is a technical procedure on how to install a light fixture, there must be a starting point. Though the finished product is rarely what you have in mind when starting out, there’s usually at least a decent portion of your original intention still laced throughout your story. With Chorus of Dust, this wasn’t the case at all.

It began out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico back in March of 2011. I had traveled out to one of our company’s offshore production platforms for work. It wasn’t the first time I’d been offshore, but it still wasn’t something I’d done enough yet that I was totally comfortable with the idea. While lying in bed one night at 8:00 PM (the days start early, so you have to hit the sack early as well if you want any decent amount of sleep), I was thinking about just how isolated we were from everything. It was true that we had phones, internet access, plenty of food, and most of the other creature comforts from home. Physically though, I’ve never felt as isolated as I do when I’m out there.  You’re literally surrounded on all sides by at least 100 miles of ocean, and at night when you look out into the darkness over the waves, it becomes impossible to see where the water ends and the black sky begins. It almost feels like you’re sitting out in the middle of outer space. Naturally, this gave me the idea for a story.

I won’t go into all the details or else this post will take you all day to read, but the long and short of it is that my thoughts on isolation eventually turned to my Grandfather’s cotton farm. We used to visit him and my grandmother (we called them Nana and Grandaddy) about twice a year. He had owned the farm since my dad was little, a sprawling plot of land that seemed to go on forever. It struck me how, in many ways, that farm was just as isolated as we were out in the middle of the gulf. If something happened there, something terrible, who would know? What secrets could be held in that place for years, or even decades?

This is where the eventual story of Chorus of Dust took root, and though it was nothing like I originally intended, I’m glad it developed the way it did. It was not an easy book to write. I started the first draft in April of 2011, and didn’t truly complete it until July. After that I went back and worked it over again, then sent it out to a couple of people I occasionally chatted with on a writing forum who agreed to beta-read it for me. When their comments came back, I went back for another round of edits, and then another. Eventually, I finally finished the book as it is now in December of 2011, a full nine months after I started it. Great for creating a baby, but for a 25,000 word novella, this isn’t a real good turnaround time. Still, despite the difficulties in writing it, I’m proud of what eventually turned out. What difficulties you ask? There were two main areas that really hung me up.

(1) Thematic Elements

Religion plays a large part in this book. My faith is a big part of my life, and so I find it hard not to bring it up in my writing. Here, I wanted to ask the hard questions.

The first question was, what is the absolute most frightening thing I could imagine? For me, the answer was simple: the concept of atheism. The idea of there being nothing after death is terrifying to me. So, my way of addressing this was to make the main character, Adem Comeaux, a die-hard atheist who feels the same way. What if the belief you held closest to you was also the one thing you were the most frightened of? That’s the essential conflict Adem must face in the story.

After that, the second question became, what hope can you possibly have when you have nothing to believe in? I won’t go into too much detail on this theme (you’ll have to read the book!), but the story deals with a number of issues in addressing it. The corruption of the church, the abandonment of faith in our society, and secrets that we all pass on from one generation to the next, to name a few. It was difficult to examine my own viewpoint with a critical eye, but in doing so, I believe my own faith has grown because of it.

(2) Swearing

Following from the first issue, this one was particularly difficult for me. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not swear, period. It’s just one of those things I don’t do. So when I sat down to write about this character Adem, and he naturally progressed into this rough-around-the-edges guy with the mouth of a sailor, I was genuinely concerned. How was I going to do this? I could take the easy way out and simply replace the bad words with words that were less-bad, or remove them altogether, but when I tried doing so it simply felt wrong. It didn’t feel true to the story or the character.

So in the end, the bad words stayed in, every last one of them. I’ll be honest, I’m concerned about what people are going to think of me when they read this book, especially people who know me well. I hope they’ll understand that this is a fictional story and the characters in it are not a reflection of me as a person or what I believe. Instead, they reflect a narrative that was begging to be released, and I had no choice but to tell it in exactly the way that I did.

I hope that they’ll understand, but if they don’t, there’s nothing I can do about it now. It’s brutal, it’s harsh, and it can be hard to read. It is by far the darkest thing I have ever written. It’s also beautiful in its own way, and I won’t apologize for it. That will have to be enough.

That’s all for now.  Chorus of Dust will be released soon in eBook format, so keep checking back. As soon as it goes live you’ll find out about it here first!

Literal Daze #6

Oh ho ho, what’s this? My semi-regular feature Literal Daze, wherein I review books and audiobooks (and maybe the occasional movie thrown in for fun), has reached a lucky half-dozen! Let’s not waste any time then.

 

Book

The Wise Man’s Fear (Patrick Rothfuss)

The Wise Man’s Fear is Patrick Rothfuss’ second book in the fantastic Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy. This one picks up basically right where the first one leaves off, with the main character Kvothe attending a sort of medieval version of a university for magicians known as the Arcanum. The story takes us from his trials and tribulations there, through to his search for a wealthy patron and then his adventures out in a bandit-infested forest known as the Eld. Eventually it ends up back at the university, bringing us full circle once again.

I’ll be honest. Never has a book frustrated me in the way this one has.

It’s long. Longer than it needs to be. Despite being a thousand pages long, the plot seems to be paper thin. Everything happens, and yet nothing happens. The story suddenly splits off on a tangent at a moment’s notice, like a child with ADD trying to follow an angry cat. By the time it returns to the thread it left so many pages ago, you’ve forgotten what you were doing there in the first place. Never have I read a book where so much and yet so little happens simultaneously.

Despite all this, I still loved this book.

Kvothe is just such a fascinating character, it almost doesn’t matter what’s going on in the story, I don’t know, maybe that’s the point. I could read about his exploits all day, regardless of what he’s doing. It was especially enjoyable seeing how his myth grows in the book, how the mix of truth, half-truth, and outright fabrication mix together to make Kvothe into the legend he has already become by the end, even though he hasn’t even reached his twenties.

Give me more, Mr. Rothfuss. I need more Kvothe like a bad drug. Just please don’t make me wait too long.

 

Audiobook

The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)

I’m genuinely surprised that I liked this book as much as I did. I’m not real big on historical fiction most of the time, and the very fact that this book had so much hype behind it (Oprah’s book club, Television Series, etc) made me wary to give it a shot. However, when I could find nothing else at the library, this caught my eye and I reluctantly decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did.

For those in the minority like I was who haven’t read this book, The Pillars of the Earth is the story of the building of a new cathedral in the fictional city of Kingsbridge in England during the Medieval period of time known as “The Anarchy”, around the mid 12th century. Sounds like a snoozefest, right?

Wrong! It turns out, the building of the cathedral is only the backdrop in a story that’s actually about war, political intrigue, mystery, and love. The various characters we follow throughout the story and how their lives interweave with the new church are interesting and three-dimensional, whether they are likable protagonists, hated villains, or the many who fall somewhere in between. The scope of the story itself is impressive, covering about forty years and nearly the entire lives of some of the characters. This makes sense of course, since the building of a new cathedral back then took decades, but being able to pull of such a feat and managing to still keep the plot moving forward and interesting throughout is something that is not easy to do. Here, Follett made it look easy.

Overall, the only conclusion I can draw is that, for once, the hype was justified on this one. It’s just a wonderful book through and through. I can’t wait to read the sequel.

As usual, since I listened to the audiobook version, I’ll also make a quick note on the narrator, John Lee. At first, I wasn’t crazy about his narration. His voice and british accent are well suited to the material, but it almost seemed too soothing, and the voices of the different characters didn’t seem all that distinct. However, as it went on, his style really grew on me. I realized that his different characters actually were pretty distinct, just very subtly so, and his tone and inflections really drew me into the action of whatever was happening in the specific scene he was reading. Overall, he did a great job.

 

Movie

John Carter

I never read A Princess of Mars, the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs that the new movie John Carter is based on. In some ways, I think that’s probably a good thing. I’m always weary of movies based on books that I’ve already read. They never seem to be able to live up to the hype. So, when I went into John Carter, I was fresh to the material and had no preconceived notions about the story. I didn’t even know what it was about.

For a quick summary, the story is about a guy named John Carter (funny how that works), a confederate soldier in the old west. After a series of incidents, he finds himself wandering into a cave, where he meets a strange futuristic figure and somehow ends up unconscious.  When he comes to, he’s on Mars, though he doesn’t know it yet. The premise here of course is that over a hundred years ago, perhaps Mars actually did have an atmosphere and alien cultures inhabiting it. When he comes to, John has to adjust to the reduced gravity of the planet, and soon realizes he is like a superhero there. He can jump higher, he’s stronger, and faster than any of the natives. Eventually, he joins up with the struggles of some of the people there and finds his place in this world, so to speak.

Though John Carter wasn’t exactly Oscar-worthy material, or even anything above the level of a popcorn-flick, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it thoroughly. It’s good, pulpy, fun Science Fiction, unabashedly embracing the clichés of the genre and playing to their strengths. There’s no deep message behind the movie, save for the idea that it would be awesome to be a superhero and save an entire planet. It never tries to be more than that, and in the process reminds us of how fun going to the movies can be. Frankly, that’s good enough for me.

 

Next Time

Make sure and come back again when I’ll be reviewing Ghost Story by Peter Straub, as well as the audiobook of World Without End by Ken Follett. It’ll be a smashing good time.

Wet Shaving

Why yes, as a matter of fact, I did enjoy that month-long camping trip.

Ahem.

Okay, so I haven’t updated in a while. It’s been a busy month, and my real-life work has dominated my spare time and practically drained the life out of me. Not a good excuse I know, but there it is. That said, as I hinted at a couple of posts ago, there is some exciting news coming, as well as a new Literal Daze entry, so don’t give up on me yet!

Changing gears, if you would be so kind, I’d like to take a moment to talk with you about my facial hair.

Wait, come back! I promise it will be interesting! Or at the very least, slightly less boring than whatever else you were doing that was so mind-numbingly dull that coming here seemed like a better option.

Like many strapping young lads, I started shaving in my early teen years. Probably well before I needed to, and certainly well before I knew what I was actually doing. My Dad, though he taught me a great many things, never really took me aside and taught me the finer arts of shaving your face. Yes, he showed me how to use a cartridge razor and how not to completely slice my face up, but I’ve recently come to understand that mindlessly dragging an expensive multi-blade cartridge across your face does not count. It might get rid of the facial hair, but it isn’t truly shaving.

Not that I’m blaming him of course. For whatever reason, this was what he knew and he did his best to pass it on to me like any good father would. However, I always felt that there was something more to it, something I was missing. No matter how good the razor was, I always managed to irritate my face, plaguing it with razor burn and ingrown hairs, to the point that I just began to stop shaving on a regular basis. It was as if my face simply couldn’t handle the ravishing effects that shaving imposed. I’d let it grow out for several days before bothering to shave again, despite the fact that I badly needed it. In my job as an engineer, where looking professional is important, this wasn’t the best practice. But what was I to do?

Finally, after doing some research, I discovered the answer. My face wasn’t the problem. It was my method, and more importantly, my razor. I’ve simply been doing it wrong.

Soon, I discovered a whole world of shaving that I didn’t know existed, like the land of Narnia quietly lurking behind the doors of the wardrobe. It was a world of soaps and badger-hair brushes, of facial growth maps, of proper lathering techniques, and understanding the difference between shaving against the grain and across the grain.

It was the world of wet-shaving.

Now, I’m not going to go into all the specifics of wet-shaving, mostly because even I haven’t learned them all yet. It’s surprisingly complicated and deep, but let me share a primer of what I’ve learned so far. Here are the basics.

  1. Wet-shaving is all about never passing a razor over a non-lubricated face. This is why multiple razor cartridges don’t count as wet-shaving. With cartridges, the first razor scrapes away some hair and all of the soap/cream/whatever, and the others drag across unprotected skin. This is a big no-no in wet-shaving.
  2. Due to #1, this means that wet-shaving must be accomplished using single blade instruments. Most commonly, that implies either the use of a safety razor or a straight razor.
  3. Since only a single razor is used, multiple passes are necessary, and each one is generally in a different direction on your face. This means multiple latherings of your face are also necessary.

And that’s why we call it wet-shaving. Of course, there are a host of other guidelines and subtleties that are involved depending on how you go about your shave, but those are the fundamentals. But it sounds like an awful lot of trouble, right? Why go through all of that when it takes so much more time and effort? For me, the answer was easy. I was tired of irritating my skin and cutting my face to shreds with cartridge razors, but I also wanted the baby-smooth shave that I’ve never quite been able to accomplish with electric razors. Wet-shaving gives me an incredibly close shave while also keeping my skin soft and irritation free.

Enough talk now. Here, let me introduce you to someone.

 

This is the Merkur HD 34C safety razor.  She is lovely, isn’t she? A marvel of German engineering and uncompromising beauty. I purposefully call her a “she” because I’m slowly coming to understand that a good safety razor is in many ways like a woman. Treat her well, and her gentleness will repay you twice-over. However, treat her badly, and you will find no end to her wrath.

Yes, I’m being a little hyperbolic for effect, but there is some truth in it. This thing is not a toy, and it’s not your daddy’s razor, although there is a pretty good chance that is quite similar to your grandfather’s razor. What, you thought wet-shaving was a new concept? Far from it, this is the traditional way of shaving that has been lost by the wayside as commercialism and marketing paved the way for expensive, over-produced and over-engineered cartridge razors. We’re only getting back to the basics here, and this fine instrument allows me to do just that.

Though it seems expensive for a razor, your paying for quality. Plus, considering the cheap price of razor blades compared to cartridge razors, you make your money back in savings fairly quickly. It’s a two-piece design, with a nut on the bottom of the handle which loosens the top of the head, allowing access to the razor slot. Here, you place a single, double-edged razor blade, sharp and deadly as… well, as a razor blade. Yes, unlike cartridge razors, the blades used in safety razors could maim or kill a man when used for malicious intent. For those who are brave enough to move up to straight razors (not me), this is even more true. As I said, it’s no toy, and is not to be trifled with.

Thankfully, once you have placed the blade in its slot and re-tightened the head, the more dangerous aspects of the razor are mostly mitigated. Yes, it can still cut you if you aren’t careful, but the cuts will be shallow and non-lethal. Thus, why they are called Safety Razors. At that point, it’s all about technique and getting a feel for how the razor will react to your face, adjusting the angle of incidence and grip and various other factors to ensure a close, clean shave.

This is where I am now, slowly learning how to handle the thing. I’m getting better though, and I can already see the positive effects this kind of shaving has had on my skin. More than that, it has turned shaving from a chore to be gotten out of the way as fast as possible to an experience that I actually look forward to.

You can’t put a price on that.

If I’ve piqued your interest, you can go where I did to further explore the world of wet-shaving at the fantastic website Badger & Blade. There, you’ll find just about everything you ever wanted to know on the subject, and probably more that you didn’t.

Literal Daze #5

That’s right, I’m back with edition number 5 of my semi-regular feature Literal Daze, where I review stuff I’ve read, listened to, or watched lately. Today, we have not one, but two audiobooks to check out, so let’s get to it.

 

A Dance With Dragons (George R. R. Martin)

 

I’m a huge fan of the series, ASoIaF (“A Song of Ice and Fire”, for the uninitiated). I started reading them back in I think 2006 or so, and rushed through the first three books, which was something like 3000 pages total, in less than a week. Yeah, these are big books, and yes, they’re that good. I literally couldn’t put them down. Then I got a hold of the fourth book, finished it, and kind of went “Whaaaaat?” It just wasn’t as good. For as long as it was, it felt like very little happened overall, and the grand sense of epic settings, political intrigue, and amazing characters that had defined the series so far seemed lost. Maybe this was because of his decision to split up this one into two different but concurrent books, the fourth focusing on specific characters in the South of Westeros and the Iron Islands, and the fifth planned to focus on everyone else in the North of Westeros and the Continent of Essos. It turns out, it felt like he left out all the awesome characters in book four.

But, in a way this was good, right? That means book five, A Dance With Dragons, should be nothing but distilled awesome, right? Yeah, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad. In many ways, it’s actually quite good, and it is objectively much better than book four. It was excellent to finally see what become of some of favorite characters like Daenerys the Dragon Queen, Tyrion the Dwarf, Theon the Turncloak, Davos the Onion Knight, and Jon Snow the Bastard of Winterfell. Overall, their character arcs did a decent job of progressing the story and bringing back the sense of urgency that had entirely gone missing in A Feast for Crows, and most of them were genuinely enjoyable. Tyrion’s journey after his deeds in King’s Landing to try and reach Daenerys and finally see the fabled dragons she possessed was particularly enjoyable, and as always his chapters were usually the most fun simply because he’s such an awesome character. Theon’s story, though I wouldn’t call it “fun”, was also really interesting. It was fascinating, after his betrayal in book three, to see him get his just desserts (and much, much worse), but then grow as a character once again until I found myself cheering him on. After what he did, I wouldn’t have thought that possible, but like Jaime Lannister throughout the first four books, GRR Martin seems to have a way of taking the worst of his characters and shaping them into his most beloved.

All that said, the lingering issues that plagued book four did not entirely go away. For as long as the book is, in many ways it still feels like not a lot happened. Going back over it in my head, I know that’s not true. Quite a lot happened, actually. I think the problem, though, is that it could have been told in maybe half as many words. It feels like, as Martin’s series becomes more and more popular, he is becoming less restricted in his editing process. There are tangents everywhere in this book that, while sort of interesting, in no way contribute to the story. Whole chapters could have been chopped out and not have affected the story one bit. This makes the book feel like more of a chore to slog through than the adventure it felt like during the first three. Book three I think was actually longer than this one, but it also felt like twice as much happened. I’m not opposed to a long book, but not when the story suffers as a result.

The bottom line is that this book could have done with some tighter editing and a little self-control on the author’s part. It was a good book, but couldn’t live up to its own legacy, the standard set by A Storm of Swords. Still, if nothing else, it feels like maybe after the train wreck that was A Feast for Crows, we’re at least back on track.

Now that we have the review of the book itself out of the way, let’s talk about the Audiobook experience. First off, have you ever listened to a 1500 page book over audio? It’s long, nearly 50 hours in fact, which is probably the longest audiobook I’ve ever listened to. It was a good way to experience this kind of book though, because the material is just so dense. Where I may skim through sections and not really retain everything when reading normally, audiobooks force me to slow down and listen to every word, savoring each rich detail, at a pre-rendered pace. I definitely retained more of the book in this format than with previous books.

On the downside though, I wasn’t crazy about the narrator, Roy Dotrice. I know I know, some people love the guy, but it just never clicked with me. After hearing the incredible voice talents of Peter Kenny in reading “Surface Detail”, maybe I’ve just been spoiled, but this just didn’t seem to measure up. Dotrice’s regular narration itself was very nice – his deep voice and slightly gruffy British accent fits the world perfectly. The issue comes in with his interpretation of the different character’s dialogue. Where Kenny’s voices ranged from various tones and timbres, accents galore, and subtle inflections that made the characters come alive, Dotrice’s voices essentially consist of “Old Man”, “Old Woman”, and “Roy Dotrice”. Daenerys, a young teenage girl, should not sound exactly the same as “Old Crone #4”. I know that in a story with this many characters some overlap is inevitable, but I can’t help but feel that someone like Kenny would have at least attempted a few more variations.

Still, it was a good experience overall, even if it was a long one. I just hope I don’t have to do it again until The Winds of Winter is released in about 20 years.

 

The Strain (Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan)

 

Considering how popular the zombie and vampire sub-genres are right now, it’s almost impossible to come up with something fresh and unique. The Strain doesn’t succeed entirely in doing that, but it makes a darn good attempt.

The Strain is about a CDC Doctor named Efrain Goodweather who is called into an emergency one night when a plane lands in New York, then inexplicably shuts down on the tarmac. Why do they call in disease control expert? Because everyone on the plane is dead, despite the fact that all were in perfect health moments before landing. Believing it to be some kind of outbreak, Eff and his team are brought in to investigate. They eventually discover that the bodies are undergoing a metamorphosis, then reanimating with an unnatural thirst for blood. An old professor and holocaust survivor who has dealt with the issue before in Europe comes into the mix to help out, and off they go.

So yes, the book is about vampires. Thankfully though, these aren’t your run of the mill, sharp-fanged, sleep-in-a-coffin type of vampires (well okay, one actually might be, but I’ll gloss over that), and they especially aren’t the angst-ridden, teenage glittery vampires that are all the rage these days. No, they’re almost more like Zombies than Vampires. After reanimating, they wake up with one single-minded purpose, which is to feed. All other higher order functions, at least at first, are secondary to that instinct. When they do feed, they also transfer the agent that forced their transformation onto the victim, and that person then also becomes a vampire. See? Just like zombies.

The authors manage to make them frightening and disturbing in their pursuit of this goal, and they do so while attempting to explain the biological makeup of these new creatures and how they function (certainly a function of Del Toro’s involvement). At several points they are likened by Eff to a “virus incarnate”, which is actually fairly accurate (and also explains the title of the novel). They feed and spread, that’s it.

Hogan and Del Toro do a fantastic job in building up the tension as the book progresses, slowly unfolding the mystery of where these things came from and what’s actually behind the outbreak. As the book goes on, things take a surprising turn from science to the supernatural which I didn’t see coming. I also appreciate the amount of depth written into all characters in the story, whether they ended up heroes battling the forces of evil with Eff or as vamp-food. The impression is that every person is important, that they have hopes and dreams and faults, and none of them deserve such a gruesome fate no matter how small their role in the overall story may be. That attention to detail definitely drew me in and held onto me, even through the rough parts.

Yes, there were some rough spots. My biggest complain is the way that the heroes, as soon as they decide to fight back against the forces of darkness, suddenly become master vampire slayers. Yes, they have some help from an experience hunter, but the change is dramatic to say the least. You have this guy Eff who was a doctor before, and suddenly he expertly wields a silver sword like some kind of crusader. It seems that in this world, it just needs to be accepted that anyone can use hand weapons with perfect skill, despite zero experience with these weapons beforehand. It’s just one of those things that breaks the suspension of disbelief, which is a shame in a story like this that works so hard to build that suspension up in the first place. The other big issue I had is that the story seems to lose a lot of steam toward the end of the book, which is ironic considering that it’s also probably the most action packed. By about 3/4 of the way through, all questions surrounding the mystery of this outbreak have been answered, and all we’re left with is a good old-fashioned vampire hunt. It’s entertaining to an extent, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. The whole thing becomes very predictable.

Still, a solid entry for the genre. Since this is only book one of a trilogy, I can give it some leeway in that there’s hopefully lots more story to tell. Hopefully I’m only seeing the tip of the iceberg here. I only hope that the next book takes things in a direction that I won’t see coming.

The audiobook itself was… eh, it was alright. When I saw it was being read by Ron Perlman, I was beyond excited. His voice is like butter, after all. Yet, only a few minutes in, my disappointment was palpable. Perlman makes absolutely zero effort to create distinct voices and differentiate the various characters in the book. Other than the old Holocaust survivor, which Perlman voices with a barely passable accent, every single other character sounds exactly the same. If not for the fact that his voice is so awesome, this thing would have been a total loss. You get the feeling that if Perlman would put in even a modicum of effort, he would be an amazing voice actor on top of already just being an amazing actor.

 

Next Time:

I’ve said this before, but look for The Wise Man’s Fear, the anticipated sequel to The Name of the Wind, coming down the pipe soon.  Eventually we’ll also be checking out The Pillars of the Earth, another ludicrously long audiobook.  Until then!